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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 5425


Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) (5:50 PM) —I will continue addressing the questions as asked. To finish the advisory panel, I think I was up to Doug Jones, who is a construction lawyer from Clayton Utz, and Eric Goodwin, who is a non-executive director of Eureka Funds Management and was formerly with Lend Lease. I think on any rational assessment that is a very high calibre set of appointments and a very high calibre panel.

I was asked about chaplains and the reason for the review. I believe the chaplains program has done and is doing a lot of good. I think chaplains are very valued by schools and I want to see us continue to support that assistance to schools. But because the chaplains program was run on an application based process, we have seen differential take up. If you analyse the take up between different states in Australia it is quite different. There is not a fair distribution, if I can put it that way.

If we analyse country and city there are some concerns. I think there is some evidence too that if you go through an application based process sometimes the leadership of the schools with the really acute needs are already under such pressure that they find it difficult to intersect with an application based process and might therefore miss the round. For those kinds of reasons we have determined that to ensure that there is a fair system and way of working that meets all needs, we are reviewing the chaplains program. We obviously have the funding. It is secure. Any fear campaign that the opposition members are raising about the funding is demonstrably incorrect. The funding is there to support chaplains as we work through some of these questions.

On the issue of the Education Investment Fund, the shadow minister might note that we are in the process of announcing some successful applicants from that fund. It continues to support strategic projects in universities and in vocational education and training. I direct his attention to some announcements made by the government as recently as last Saturday and last Friday.

On the rural hardship fund, the shadow minister is well aware that in order to secure passage of this legislation, which was much delayed, we needed to have conversations with senators and the opposition. We did have those conversations. We reached agreement with the opposition and with Greens senators, including an agreement about the $20 million hardship fund. The best way of distributing that to ensure maximum fairness is being worked through. That will be the aim of the fund, which is entirely appropriate.

On the issue of TEQSA, I must admit that my understanding is that the shadow minister is on some grand frolic of his own about this. We are deregulating a system so it can be demand driven. If you are deregulating a system so it can be demand driven you need to have strong quality assurance. I would have thought that was obvious to any student of public policy. I believe the shadow minister has announced that the view of the opposition is that Australian universities in the top 100 in one of the international rankings need not be regulated by TEQSA. They are obviously Group of Eight universities, and the Group of Eight has made it very clear that they do not support the shadow minister’s view. In my discussions with people in the university sector there is grand bemusement about this approach from the shadow minister: it is viewed as laughable, eccentric and strange. I think that is the explanation for TEQSA.


Mr Keenan interjecting


Ms GILLARD —Before you insult a number of vice-chancellors, can I refer you to the Group of Eight’s public statement on this matter.

On the question of teacher quality cuts—and I thank the member for Melbourne Ports for asking me—we are investing in teacher quality, including bringing the best and brightest graduates into teaching. We are investing in paying the best teachers more to go to the classrooms that need them the most. We are investing in more independence and autonomy for public school principals. The threat to that investment is of course from the Leader of the Opposition, who would cut all of this funding should he become Prime Minister of this country. That would be a fundamental attack on the quality of schooling in this country, meaning that some of these reform measures and drives—and I note the Deputy Speaker is from Western Australia—including empowering public school principals to be the principals of independent schools—(Time expired)


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. JE Moylan)—The member for Newcastle.


Mr Pyne —Labor had their turn. Julia took it.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I am sorry. As I understand it, it is one after the other.


Ms Grierson interjecting


Mr Pyne interjecting


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —It would assist the order if the member for Newcastle could resume her seat. I apologise. I call the member for Murray.